- Nostalgia ain't what it used to be in the Snuff Crew camp. The masked duo's past releases on the likes of Killekill and International Deejay Gigolos were raw recreations of early Chicago house in all its hard-jacking, primal intensity. On their third album, Behind The Masks, the German duo dial down the tweaking 303, bring in guest vocalists and, fashionably, hark back to early '90s New York house and garage. Whether this is a heartfelt move or belated bandwagon-jumping is beside the point, as the results just aren't very good.
Snuff Crew's older tracks asserted themselves through sheer force of will. Acid and basic Chicago house are primitive sounds, all about energy. Create enough of that energy and you can make them speak down the ages. The song-based music that Snuff Crew are engaged in here, however, requires a more sophisticated approach. If you're going to retread early '90s vocal garage, as they do on "New Life" or "Let Me Be The One," then the hooks need to dig in as deep as they do on classics by Ce Ce Penniston and Kym Sims. Or you need to radically reinterpret that sound, as acts like Hercules & Love Affair have done.
Snuff Crew don't do either very effectively. Kim Ann Foxman of Hercules & Love Affair guests on the album's catchiest track, "Tearing Me Away," but the result sounds tame compared to the music it's imitating—Masters At Work's "I Can't Get No Sleep," for example. Even the non-vocal tracks on Behind The Masks sound oddly constrained. "Jack My Heart" lacks any sense of frenzied crowds in strobe-lit basements. "What Is Electro" is the kind of by-numbers Detroit homage, which, though elegantly done, we've heard a million times before.
Is over-familiarity the issue? The best track here is "Work It Out" with Tyree Cooper, a pulsating recreation of hip-house, perfect in its period detail. Unlike the other genres reverentially recreated on Behind The Masks, hip-house was under-exposed at the time and was never taken that seriously. Perhaps that's the way forward for producers who now see electronic music as a historical re-enactment society: they should solely draw on forgotten, borderline ridiculous sub-genres. Or perhaps—just an idea—they could try something new.
02. New Life feat. Rachel Row
03. Move Me
04. Let Me Be The One feat. Hard Ton
05. Jack My Heart
06. Tearing Me Away feat. Kim Ann Foxman
07. Work It Out feat. Tyree Cooper
08. What Is Electro?
10. Joy Of Jealousy